26 Feb 2017 | Tom Brufatto
Since the 23rd June 2016, we are being constantly reminded that our government is merely executing the democratic ‘will of the people’. Brexit is marketed to us and the rest of the world as a simple celebration of British democracy and newly-found national self-confidence. Our government is intent on progressing Brexit at a dangerous speed, making headlines that cause us to focus on mitigating the effects of individual events and allowing them to normalise Brexit by ignoring the truth of the events that preceded the EU referendum. Lest we forget.
On the 5th June 1975, the UK electorate chose to join what was then known as the “Common Market”. This decisive referendum result showed that 67% of British voters were in favour of joining the most ambitious political project in the world.
Their choice payed off. As the EU grew to become the biggest trading block in the world, the UK climbed to the position of 4th largest economy. The result of this economic success was felt across the UK and the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation became the most prosperous alive.
Prosperity and economic growth in the UK were a direct result of UK accession to the EU.
THE FINANCIAL CRISIS
An enabler of this prosperity was the west’s decision to embrace under-regulated capitalism and tertiary sector industry. Whilst it worked, governments were given loans for public spending, businesses were given loans to expand and people were given loans to buy houses. When this unsustainable model hit its limit in 2008, and as the global financial markets crashed, the political landscape started to change.
As favour swung to opposition parties across the globe, David Cameron became prime minister of the coalition government in 2010 with a mandate to fix the now broken British economy, and set about enforcing austerity. The education system, NHS and every other publicly funded entity started to suffer the consequences. Equally, the businesses that had previously flourished thanks to loans were forced to reduce their workforce and/or close. Those who were told they could afford a house were told they no longer could.
People were not left behind by globalisation as much as they were forced to the back by austerity.
THE RUN-UP TO 2015
As spending cuts grew deeper, the anguish felt by the British people grew stronger and the need for alternatives became more urgent. UKIP seized the opportunity to remodel itself: from a racist fringe party to a 21st century populist alternative to the ‘establishment’, albeit being lead and funded by prominent ‘establishment’ figures. By providing comforting lies to the suffering of the British people, UKIP’s message started to gain popularity with parts of England and Wales in which austerity was most noticeable. Critically, it was used as validation by the far right of the Conservative Party.
Thinking ahead to the 2015 general election, moderate conservatives were faced with two options: risk a revolt on the far right of their own political party which would jeopardise their image of unity, or placate them. David Cameron also saw opportunity in the latter option, and chose to pedal Euroscepticism and the demonization of EU nationals living in the UK to increase his chances of winning in 2015. His renegotiation of the UK’s relationship with the EU was little more than a stunt to claw back votes from UKIP whilst at the same time using the 2013 referendum pledge as a means to force the EU to cower to his perceived political prowess, or else he would campaign to leave the EU.
By this point, David Cameron had already decided that his political career was more important than our future.
THE 2015 General Election
In 2015 the British people granted the Conservatives an absolute majority in the belief that Labour could not be trusted with fixing the economy and that the EU and EU nationals were responsible for most shortcomings in public services.
In their pursuit for re-election, government had successfully convinced Britons that EU citizens were to blame for health tourism, benefit tourism, putting pressure on public services, driving wages down, stealing British jobs, British homes, and places in British schools – a gross misrepresentation of their contribution to our society for short-term political gain.
Throughout this process, opposition parties failed to assert that health and benefit tourism was a targeted lie, designed to mask the neglect of the NHS and the welfare system as a result of austerity. British jobs had been lost to the mechanisation of production lines and the banks’ reticence to lend, new homes and schools hadn’t been built in order to pursue the unrealistic ‘budget surplus’.
We were at the height of a financial depression and the EU and its nationals were used as scapegoats to avoid accountability.
THE REFERENDUM CAMPAIGN
For the duration of the referendum campaign, chaos reigned in British politics. What was intended to be a mere tick-in-the-box exercise for the PM to silence the far-right of his party and undermine UKIP for good, descended into a nationalist, racist and narcissistic free-for-all.
The right-wing conservatives sought their opportunity to overrun the party that had for years tamed them, ambitious conservative MPs jumped at the opportunity to undermine their party leader in an overt leadership contest and UKIP and Leave.EU embarked on a campaign that was so racist that they were excluded from joining the official Vote Leave campaign.
The only thing that united, and still unites, leave campaigners is their implementation of meaningless nationalist slogans and lies that defy common sense and political decency.
The remnants of the vote leave campaign, now embodied by Theresa May’s government, continue to attempt to silence and marginalise us into submission. Their favourite weapon is to call us ‘undemocratic’, because we oppose ‘the will of the people’.
Let’s be clear then, Brexit isn’t ‘the will of the people’: it is the failed attempt to resolve an internal party-political dispute, compounded by a failed austerity policy.
In other words, Brexit is the biggest con of the British people in the history of the United Kingdom – and it started in 2010.